Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

Category: Trips (page 1 of 11)

Anything related to travelling, or trips that I take for business or leisure.

Business Trip to Dallas Texas

Last month I traveled to the Dallas area for two days worth of meetings and tours.

The flight inbound on American Airlines was pretty uuneventful apart from the middle seat. The plane offered in-flight entertainment so

  1. I watched the first half of Arrival, but the audio was bad. (Update – Luckily I was able to re-watch it through Netflix later. Excellent film.)
  2. I watched Hidden Figures in its entirety, and I thought it was alright.
  3. I watched a portion of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but ran out of time when we began landing procedures.

After picking up my rental car (a Kia from Hertz), I made my way up to the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre. Most Dallas city hotels were booked up this week, so I was staying on the outskirts. It’s a decent hotel with nice rooms, one restaurant, and a lively bar. Unfortunately the small gym is more of an afterthought with missing equipment, and the outdoor pool (from what I saw) was rather tiny.

20170507_210531After I arrived, I worked out in the gym  (ran a 5K), then showered and made my way to see my Sandhya and family for dinner. She moved to Dallas maybe 2-3 years ago after getting married and had 3 kids in the interim. Life does move fast. I had a great evening chatting with them all, but then had get back to catch up on work and prep for Monday.

Monday itself was a blur with consecutive meetings all day. In the evening, I ran another 5K on the gym treadmill, cleaned & dreasesd up, then drove back into Dallas to meet up with an old friend, Paul. He’s a long term Dallas resident doing comedy in the DFW area, plus touring colleges and clubs in the U.S. We met up at a nice restaurant near his neighborhood for dinner, then walked across to a bar for drinks and to finish chatting.

20170508_222607Tuesday was another blur and then a mad rush to return the rental car, and catch my 5pm flight. I ended up getting home around midnight.

Amid all the meetings and topics covered, I finally made some time to visit some area friends, see a little bit of Dallas, and work out…. two days in a row. Amazing.

Spring Break in Baltimore

Joshua's brand new bike for the trip

Joshua’s brand new bike for the trip

The kids had Spring Break for the week of March 9th, as did Namita’s niece Sophia. Namita decided (and I agreed to come along!) to drive down to Baltimore for a few days, stay over a few days, and let the cousins keep each other company. I took off that Monday only, and worked remotely Tuesday and Wednesday. The kids really wanted to go biking with Sophia, and I wanted to go biking there too on my day off. With only a few hours before we would be packing up and leaving, Joshua and I went to our local bike shop to trade in his old bike, and purchase a more grown up one.

We didn’t hit too much traffic on the way down Sunday night. Nothing fancy — we had a home-cooked meal  at their house before bed.

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Meeting friends in front of Rusty Scupper in the Inner Harbor

On Monday, I took the kids out biking in the late morning, and we covered about 5-6 miles riding around the Baltimore suburbs, hanging out in a local park, and grabbing some ice cream. In the later afternoon, I struck out on my own to make my way to the Inner Harbor using Google Maps biking directions. Let me tell, you, those biking directions should definitely be considered beta, because it took me through some awful neighborhoods without bike trails/lanes. Heck, at one point I ran out of road, and was left with a dirt sidewalk. The good news was that I didn’t get jacked. I have to say that I was amazed and appalled by how much abject poverty there is around and within Baltimore.

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Dinner at Roy’s, Inner Harbor, Baltimore

I rode all the way to the Inner Harbor, and met up with our neighbors Brian & Teo (and some of their kids) who were also vacationing in Baltimore that week. On the way back, I found the Jones Falls Trail, and took that as far as I could up through Druid Hill Park, before reverting back to dangerous streets. Overall, I rode about 24 miles that day. When I got back, I quickly showered, and the five of us went back down to the harbor area for dinner at Roy’s. After dinner, we walked around and all the way to Fells Point to meet up with Teo and Brian (and their respective families) to say hello.

Tuesday and Wednesday was about me working remotely while everyone else had fun. Namita took the kids out Tuesday for lunch, a bookstore, trying to see a movie, etc. I found an Orangetheory Fitness gym in Hunt Valley, MD, and took an hour class there after work. After dinner, we played Telestrations for the first time, which was fun.

Wednesday at the end of the day, I took the kids biking one last time, and we did some more exploration of the surrounding areas. In the evening, we loaded up the car, drove for a while, and grabbed dinner at a Waffle House somewhere along the way.

I wish I didn’t have to work while traveling. I would have enjoyed hanging out with everyone else, but what can you do sometimes. At least we had the evenings together.

Business Trip to Columbus Ohio

In March, I had a very brief business trip to Columbus Ohio, that got postponed due to a freak mid-March snowstorm. It got rescheduled for two weeks later, and the same day as Lily’s 9th birthday party. Why? Thankfully, I was able to book the last flight out to Columbus on Sunday night with my coworker. After the party, we cleaned up, I finished packing, and then was off to Newark.

The flight was ultimately very delayed about 3 hours due to missing aircraft.

“Where’s the plane, United?”

“It’ll be here real soon, We really mean it this time!”

While waiting, I chatted with my coworker, caught up on the news, and ate a poor man’s cheesesteak quesadilla from a take-out restaurant at the airport (because they ran out of bread.) We arrived very late in Columbus, and navigated our weary selves to the rental car center, and to our hotel, the Hampton Inn Columbus-West.

In the morning, we grabbed a complimentary-yet-sparse breakfast at our oddly-very-empty-on-a-Monday-morning Hampton Inn hotel, then went to the office. We worked for the morning as planned, had lunch at the office, then got unceremoniously kicked out. It was one of those, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” kind of deals. Don’t ask. My coworker and I killed some time, gassed up the car, saw some of downtown Columbus, then went to the airport. We had dinner at the airport, then had an uneventful trip back home. I got home around 10:30 pm.

That was it, folks. It was a fast blink and you’ll miss it trip. Downtown Columbus looked interesting, so it might be worth coming back to check it out for a night.

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Monday

Sadsies.

After breakfast, the ladies (plus Teo) tried to find some of the Wisconsin guests and their 10 am Zumba in the water class, but never found them. Namita and I ended up picking up some souvenirs for the kids at the gift shop, then heading back to pack our suitcases.

Although we had to check out by 11 or 12, we could have the bellman come to grab our suitcases, then we could hang out, eat, and drink on the resort until we had to catch our transportation back to the airport. I checked us out, then met the rest of our traveling companions on the beach. We had a few more drinks, then went to the hotel tub for one last dip.

I went to the nearby spa to shower, freshen up, and change my clothes. I met the rest of them at Kampai for our last meal (lunch.) We ended up lunching longer than expected, and ended up briskly walking to the main lobby.

Thankfully our limo (our limo!) had not left without us. We had an uneventful ride back to the airport, no delays with our flight, and no issues overall. Soon enough we were in the minivan and on our way home to New Jersey.

Overall, it was a really fun trip. We had some great food, enjoyed the sun, and met a lot of nice Midwest folks. I do wish the weather had cooperated more. Teo & Sofia never got to go snorkeling or parasailing, and none of us got to enjoy our beachfront dining experiences.

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Saturday and Sunday

I decided to combine the next two days, because we really spent the majority of our days in the pool drinking beverages, meeting very nice people from Milwaukee, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Saturday was kinda cool because Teo and I played beach volleyball with some folks, which was a first for me.

Cancun 2017 (102 of 115)Teo, Sofia and Nums did get beachside massages in the late afternoon, and I went to work out at the gym.

Saturday night we went to Rincon Mexico for dinner and we were supposed to see some fire show at the resort theater area. Unfortunately I got sick (bad indigestion or gas or something) and Teo ended up doing me a solid and running to the resort gift shop to pick up Pepto Bismol and Tums. Nums and I didn’t make it to the show, and Teo & Sofia caught the tail end, then went to the Guacamayas bar that stays open until 2 am.

Bummer.

Sunday was more time at the bar, plus Nums got another massage. We met a few more people from Nebraska at a hot tub on the Casitas side, and ended up drinking and chilling with them for another hour or so. Teo and I made two separate beer runs to empty our respective mini-fridges of all beer and champagne.

We grabbed Sunday dinner at Fuego, another Mexican restaurant. After dinner, we caught the last 20 minutes of “El Dorado Karaoke”, then got another two rounds of drinks at Guacamayas next door.

We had an opportunity for a beachside dinner, but the weather never cooperated in the evenings. For both Saturday and Sunday late afternoon and early evenings,  a heavy rainstorm and high winds would move in and hit the area. Both evenings during sunset, it was either raining or raining and windy. We never got to eat on the beach, so that sucked. Teo and Sofia had also planned to go snorkeling during the weekend, but the high winds cancelled excursions both days. Double bummer.

Our last full days of vacation were slipping away.

 

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Friday

Oh my, what day.

Cancun 2017 (44 of 115)We spent most of the day in the main swim-up bar at the El Dorado Royale. Based on our explorations, while there are 9 swim-up bars between the Royale and Casitas properties, 8 of them are  really quiet. Not to stereotype, but it seemed older guests liked the peace and quiet. We made our way to the big swim-up bar / pool and spent most of the day there. You’ve got three restaurants surrounding this pool so it’s the place to be, if you ask me.

Teo, Sofia, and Nums enjoyed drinks in hand-carved coconuts and pineapples after breakfast. We spent nearly the entire day in the pool. Of note, around 2 pm, we walked over to participate in the daily tequila tasting. For some reason, people kept pouring their shots into my cup. Sometime after the tequila tasting, we were all well… hydrated.

At some point, on the way back to our rooms, all the while stumbling / giggling, we stopped and swam around in a large salt water pool. Eventually we made it to the rooms, and got ready for dinner at the Casitas Italian restaurant. Wow, great food.

Cancun 2017 (66 of 115)Later around 10 pm, we took a golf cart ride to the Royale lobby, and caught a cab into town (Playa del Carmen) and went to our destination for the evening  – Coco Bongo.  Now. I’ve been to the Coco Bongo in Cancun at least twice now, and I know it gets super crowded on the main floor. I highly recommended that we purchase VIP tickets ahead of time, which turned out to be an good idea. after all We were escorted to our balcony area, where we had waiters running drinks for us, and also escorting the ladies to the rest rooms as needed. The Playa Del Carmen version appeared to be smaller than the Cancun version, but I could be wrong. Still, very entertaining.

We ended up partying until about sometime an after 3 am, and only after we got the girls on stage to dance. Check that one off the list! We grabbed a cab, and we were home 30 or so minutes later.

What a day. What a night.

Namita’s 40th birthday party extravaganza in the Riviera Maya – Thursday

I began planning the centerpiece of my wife Namita’s 40th birthday celebration months ago. We discussed maybe even a year earlier of getting a number of folks together, flying somewhere warm without children, and relaxing. As the months ticked inexorably closer to Dec 2016, most people couldn’t make it. The good news is we had narrowed down the vacation destination to either Cancun or the Riviera Maya. Luckily, our resident “Always down to party!” friends Teo and Sophia were looking for a vacation.

The kids would stay over with their grandparents for the extended weekend (Wed night – Tues morning.) The four of us were leaving Thursday early morning at 3 am. We stayed up to finish packing (as usual) and we were on time to leave. We drove to Queens, dropped off the car at off-airport parking, did the whole get to the airport / check-in / security thing, and then waited around at the concourse. There were a lot of people at JFK even at 4:30 am.

Cancun 2017 (15 of 115)No issues with our United flight, and we arrived on time. Namita slept and I watched movies on my iPad. We fought past all the pushy folks selling ‘adventures’ and excursions, and found Lomas Travel. After waiting about 10-15 minutes, our Lincoln MKX limo showed up. I knew our agent Travel Tom was up to something, but wow. We enjoyed a very comfortable 45 minute ride to the El Dorado Royale / Casitas in the Riviera Maya.

We took a large golf cart over to the Casitas section and checked in at our own personal Casitas lounge. We had an excellent lunch at the Asian fusion restaurant Kampai then went to check out our fabulous rooms. I surprised Namita with an upgrade to the Casitas section, and Travel Tom surprised Teo and Sofia with a free upgrade to Casitas as well!

Cancun 2017 (39 of 115)We relaxed for a bit, then I went to check out the resort with Teo & Sofia. Namita needed a few more winks of rest, but she joined us later. The resort was expansive  – very stretched out with many pools, canals, etc. We were a little surprised to find the swim-up pools and bars closed promptly at 5 pm in order to get ready for dinner. We did hang out at one of the beachside bars to drink.

In the late evening, we had reservations at Fuentes, what they call a culinary dining experience. They have a rotating set of chefs come in to design a series of appetizers and entrees and desserts. They also make the meal in front of everyone, and have it on camera for everyone to see.

Our Trip to Michigan for Sean & Rechana’s Wedding

Our friend Sean was getting married in January, so we flew out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, a 3 day weekend here in the States. The plan was to pack Friday night, leave early Saturday morning, attend the rehearsal dinner Saturday night, wedding Sunday afternoon, fly home Monday early afternoon.

We flew out early Saturday morning from Newark airport. Naturally, all the off-airport parking lots were full by late Friday night. We considered parking in long term parking / economy, but now we were running late, and ended up parking in the semi-short term parking near the rental car center. Why did we do this? We thought we might have time to park in a long term lot and catch a bus, but who knew how soon the bus would show up early on a Saturday? We felt the monorail was a safer, more reliable option. We grabbed a quick continental breakfast in a Terminal A concourse, took an uneventful flight to Detroit, and landed early. We picked up our Hertz rental car, and drove to Royal Oak to meet up with Doug and Kathy for lunch at a Mongolian BBQ place.

After lunch, we checked into our hotel, the Residence Inn in Warren MI, and enjoyed a little downtime. In the evening, we attended the rehearsal dinner as planned, met a number of NJ folks we knew who (turns out) are related to Sean via marriage. We also met the bride-to-be Rechana. Nice girl. After the dinner, we went with Doug & Kathy to a local Dairy Queen for dessert.

Sunday morning, Josh and I drove over to Sean’s home to help the groomsmen get ready. Josh and I also had to drive to the Macy’s in Novi Michigan to pick up a blue tie that we never got a chance to buy for him.

Sunday afternoon and evening was all about the wedding and reception. They all went pretty well.

Monday morning, we were packing up, and grabbed brunch with Paul, Biji, and their kids. Then we were off racing to the airport, trying to find a gas station near the rental car return center, dashing to the terminal, and made our flight without further fuss or muss.

Overall, a successful getaway to Michigan in January, and no one froze to death. I’m glad we made it to the wedding. Apart from being there for Sean, we ran into many friends and acquaintances who were very impressed (?) that we made the effort to fly all that way from NJ to Michigan for the wedding. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, but I guess it it was nice that we felt appreciated.

Yeh man, the Ipes went to Jamaica – Friday

Our last day in Jamaica.

After breakfast, we began packing our suitcases. We then went back to the beach to get a quick ride on a small sailing boat around the bay one last time.

We grabbed the bus back to Montego Bay, which took about 90 minutes to get to the airport. We bought some last minute souvenirs, and some last minute Jamaican beef patties, then hung around at the airport for a bit. It wasn’t too crowded, and we were pleased to find some free Wi-Fi.

The flight home was on time and uneventful. We got home at 11:22 PM, and the cats were mildly interested in seeing us again.

Yeh man, the Ipes went to Jamaica – Thursday 

Thursday was our last full day here in Jamaica. We made the most of it. Nums went to get a massage. The kids tried standing and surfing on that flow boarding thing. The kids also went swimming with dolphins, which they both loved. In the evening, we went back to the teppanyaki restaurant. Had the same cook as Monday! After all the glitz and glamour of dinner, I took the kids out to the arcade one last time, then the three of us played a few games outside in the dark, like capture the flag.

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